by John Wayne Comunale
You know that old Elvis song, Guitar Man? I guess if I had to blame this all on something, anything; I would blame it on that. The moment after I heard that song I knew what I was supposed to do. It was like a blueprint for life laid out right there by our lord and savior, the King himself. There’s one thing I’ll tell you for sure, and that is if there’s someone you can trust on God’s green Earth it’s Elvis. It’d be near sacrilege not to. That said, I picked up my guitar, kissed my mama, gave my daddy the finger and took off on a bus to Memphis where I’d begin my new life as a Guitar Man.
I got off the bus in Memphis with my trusty guitar on my back, thus completing the first set of instructions given by Elvis in his song of truth. When the dust settled I stepped out to cross the street on my way to literally the first honky-tonk joint I saw. Halfway across something occurred to me that I hadn’t given much thought too until now. I had been so blindly following the orders of the all-powerful Presley I totally forgot that I didn’t know how to play the guitar at all.
Not a single lick.
In fact, the guitar I had grabbed from my room and ‘slung upon my back’ was a souvenir my gramma had gotten for me from the booze cruise she died on two years ago. It was made of cardboard with a dowel rod attached and two pieces of twine tied to it. Sex on the Beach was airbrushed across the front to commemorate gramma’s favorite drink, and also her favorite place to have sex. Just as these thoughts were trickling through the slipstream of my consciousness, I was struck by a yellow Volkswagen Beatle with a bicycle hanging out the trunk. This instantly nullified the poor quality of my guitar since it was smashed to pieces along with the majority of bones in my body, but at least I had one less thing to worry about now.
Even as I was flying into the air cringing in pain from the shattering of my skeletal system I still had faith in Elvis. As long as I followed what he said everything was going to work out. I hit the ground just in time to be pulverized by a bus of Hawaiian Tropics bikini models that was following closely behind the VW. This was probably the sexiest way possible for my broken bones to be ground up finer than the sultry and kind voice of The King telling me how it was gonna’ be hard at first.
The Volkswagen stopped and the driver got out to greet the scantily clad bronze girls running from the bus squealing like pigs on the killing floor. I guess I had been lost in the confusion and coconut oil because no one bothered offering to help pull my mangled innards from the tread of that sexy, sexy bus. The driver of the Volkswagen, however, was doing his absolute damnedest to comfort as many of the barely-legal copper-toned babes as possible by cradling them in his hairy and muscly arms. He was a true and selfless hero in my eyes.
Finally the bus driver, a stout, thickheaded clod of a man noticed me shoved up under the rear wheels. He told me to ‘hold tight’ assuring me he was going pull the bus up enough to get me out from the under the tire so he could take me to the hospital. He must have forgotten his promise because while he did pull the bus up and off of me, he never stopped. He just kept driving leaving me, and his precious sexy cargo alone in the street to fend for ourselves. The girls screamed at the sudden loss of their transportation sounding like a barrel full of lab rats that were set on fire, and thrown off a building. A few of them were lucky enough to fit in the Volkswagen with the greasy driver, especially since he took the bike from the trunk and chucked it in my direction. I’m pretty sure it hit my cheek but I didn’t know exactly where my cheek was anymore.
When the VW was packed to the gills with his new found, sexy cargo he drove off leaving several of the bathing gold-skinned beauties in the street to figure out their next move alone. The models meandered about for a while looking confused until they finally chose a direction and started walking in it. Of course, the direction they chose sent them my way, and they all walked right over my flattened former self. Their spiked heels dug deep into my skin, which had been stretched so thin that each step left a tiny puncture in its wake. I didn’t mind though, and could hardly blame them for not paying attention since they were probably in shock from the accident. It was a perfectly understandable reaction.
Once they rounded the corner the volume of their inaudible shrieks tapered off until the only thing I could hear was the rustling of leaves being pushed along the curb by the warm Tennessee summer breeze. For the next several hours that was all I heard, and I started to wonder how I would catch a ride on down to Macon Georgia since Elvis had prophesied that would be the next stop on my way to becoming a Guitar Man. The sun sank low shooting red and pink lasers down the road when suddenly the doors to the honky-tonk opened, and a man stepped out onto the street.
“Jeeeeezusss Chaaarist,” he said through a thick and silvery beard that sat beneath his chin like a mangy cat with a skin problem. It was by far his most notable feature, and for a moment I was jealous.
This was the kind of beard that defined a man. The exact kind of beard a man who ran a honky-tonk in Memphis Tennessee would, nay, should have. I took this man’s beard as a sign from the great side-burned one in the sky that I was right where I was supposed to be. I quivered what I hoped was my lip as a salute of recognition to Elvis for sending him to me. The old man and his beard approached, and I became light headed with giddiness. He looked down at the mangled sack of boneless flesh I had become and kicked at me.
“Well,” he said, “can’t just leave you out here like this. Besides, I think we can use you here.”
His voice poured from the beard with a golden, dulcet tone that slipped gently into my canals to massage his message into my brain. He bent down, filled his fists with meaty handfuls, and dragged me out of the street into the honky-tonk. I could hardly believe it! I had just barely been in Memphis and I was already going to be a Guitar Man, which was way before Elvis told me it would happen.
“Vicky,” yelled the old man as we entered the club. “Get your shriveled up, useless ass out here and help me with this. I think it’s just the thing you need to help with your, uh . . . problem.”
All I could see from where the man dropped me was the black ceiling, a few bright circular lights, and that majestically magical beard with two eyes attached gazing down upon me. A moment later there was another face looking down, but not one I cared for. It was drawn together with deep-set wrinkles not from age, but from being burned. The gouged in, pink scars converged at a moist hole I assumed was her mouth since a cigarette was dangling from it. She exhaled smoke into my face and bent down to get a closer look, which allowed me to see that she was wearing a bright orange thong only. Also, the burns were not just relegated to her face. They covered the entirety of her exposed body leaving what looked like overgrown, lopsided raisins where her breasts had once been. They reminded me of home for some reason.
“You’re right, Sheldon,” she said through her mangled horror hole. “I think this’ll work just fine.”
That said she pulled a butterfly knife from the back of her thong, and whipped it around elaborately causing the blade to snap up from its sheath. She buried the tip just above where my chest had been, and traced a deep cut all the way down to my groin. The woman that Sheldon had called Vicky picked me up and shook until all the pulverized bone dust, and mashed up organs had fallen out across the dancehall floor. Satisfied, she stepped into my empty skin and her crispy visage disappeared inside of me. She aligned her eyes with mine allowing me to see that I was not in a honky-tonk at all, but a low-end, filth palace of a Z-grade strip club. I could smell through Vicky’s nose the stale aroma of coconut oil and sadness hanging thick and heavy in the uncirculated air. She whirled us around to face the stage and a neon sign above it read: Them’s Some Titties!
That night Vicky wore my skin as she danced, and while it hung loose in some places on account of me having a wider frame than her, it was still tight around the spots where it counted. The swinging flaps of limp flesh served as a sort-of pendulum whose hypnotic power would not let the lecherous voyeur patrons look away. She had more requests for lap dances that night than all her years of stripping including from before she was all burned up. Now she wears me every night being careful to always keep me wiped down and well moisturized so my skin keeps that youthful glow, and stays soft to the touch. I never became the Guitar Man that I set out to be, but it turns out being the fleshy meat-puppet of a badly burned, middle-aged stripper ain’t a bad gig at all. Honestly, I think Elvis would be proud.
John Wayne lives in Houston Texas where he wiles away the days writing ridiculous stories, and slinging lattes for a bunch of jerks. When he’s not doing that he’s touring with his bands: johnwayneisdead and Letters to Voltron. He also writes and illustrates his own zine: The Afterlife Adventures of johnwayneisdead.